Friday, February 27, 2015

The President

The President -- Sequoia National Park, CA
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 1/30s, f/4, ISO: 200
If I had to pick one tree that I've seen as the coolest tree ever, there's a pretty good chance this would be the one.  The President is a massive sequoia in Sequoia National Park.  The General Sherman is the largest known tree based on trunk volume, but there is speculation that the President is possibly larger than the General Sherman based on overall volume, which includes the whole kit and kaboodle, including branches and needles.  That's not what makes it so awesome, though, I only read that thing about its volume recently.  My favorite sequoias are downright gnarly in their upper halves.  The Grizzly Giant in Yosemite is a great example, but the President might be the ultimate gnarly sequoia.  Of course, I don't have any pictures of the top half of the President.  I guess I had to leave myself a reason to go back.

Inspired by Geogypsy's Foto Friday Fun 100, photo #4234.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge

Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, OR
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, 1/125s, f/11, ISO: 100
I don't normally see a lot of wildlife at the Ankeny complex in Oregon aside from Canada geese (woohoo), but in winter it's a good spot for bald eagles.  I saw an American bittern in November, the first and only time I've ever seen one.  No pictures though, my card was full and  had left the spare in the car.  D'oh.

This pond is always pretty, even though there are normally only a few ducks on it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

More Cranes

Merced National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1.2000s, f/5.6, ISO: 400
OK, unlike yesterday's photo, I'm not so sure about this one.  Again the depth of focus is too narrow, but zoomed in it's a bit more obvious.  Basically most of the picture is out of focus.  I like the crane with its mouth open and also how the egrets can be seen mixed in with the cranes.  Sandhill cranes are pretty awesome, I'm thinking about heading back out there this weekend.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sandhill Cranes

Merced National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/2000s, f/5.6, ISO: 400
This photo has grown on me.  Cranes.  Blackbirds.  Egrets. The depth of focus is too narrow, but I like all the action.

Monday, February 23, 2015

White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis -- Merced National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/2000s, f/5.6, ISO: 640
I took this photo last week on the auto tour at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge.  This ibis was right next to the road and paid no attention to me as I pulled up to take pictures.

What's the plural of ibis?  Ibises?  Ibii?  Just plain old Ibis?  The spell check is letting me get away with ibises, so that's what I'm going with.

I've seen plenty of ibises on these auto tours.  I've never gotten this close, though.  What a strange collection of colors and patterns.  It's hard to imagine it could all go together on a single bird.  The "white-faced" part of their name comes from their breeding plumage, which has more red in their chest and neck and obviously white on their face.  I had to look that up, I've never actually seen one with a white face.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret -- Merced National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1.1600s, f/5.6, ISO: 320
Lovely birds, snowy egrets.  It seems like when nothing else is going well a snowy egret will come through with a nice photo op.  This was the first good shot of the day on Monday, and it came at around 4:00.  Things went better after that, though.  I credit little snowy here for getting the ball rolling.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Goonies House

The Goonies House, Astoria, OR
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 1/250s, f/4. ISO: 200
I watched The Goonies last night.  I know the movie backwards and forwards.  It played at The Elsinore when I worked there in high school.  I visited the house when I passed through Astoria a couple of years ago.  I didn't meet the people that own the place, but they seem pretty cool about their special house.  There's a hand-painted sign directing tourists to the place.  Equally exciting to me was the house next door, Data's house.  Unfortunately there's no cable running between the houses for Data to slide down on.

Data's House, Astoria, OR
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 1/200s, f/4, ISO: 200

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hoodoos & Trees

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 1/1250s, f/4, ISO: 100
Bryce Canyon is easily one of the most picturesque places I've ever been.  Spin and shoot just about anywhere and you'll end up with a nice photo, most likely rich with orange and green.  I spent a few days there a couple of years ago.  I'd love to go back, especially in winter with snow on the ground.

Inspired by Geogypsy's Foto Friday Fun 99 photo #1977.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Owl in a Nest

Great Horned Owl -- Merced National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T4i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/1600s, f/5.6, ISO: 640
Can a person ever tire of seeing owls?  I suspect not.

I did a bit of research, and it turns out that great horned owls usually lay their eggs in January and the eggs hatch about a month later.  So, if this mother's eggs haven't hatched yet they will be soon.  The old man is probably off hunting for food for her.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cute Cows

Jersey Cows -- Gustine, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/640s, f/4, ISO: 100
On drives with Pongo I often stop so he can have a good look at the cows.  He's crazy about cows.  We've stopped a couple of times at a farm near Gustine where these cute cows gather near near the fence to get a gander at Pongo.  Yesterday when we stopped he was very excited and nervous, too nervous to look at the cows.  They were certainly interested in him, though.  Silly dog.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal -- Merced National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/1600s, f/5.6, ISO: 400
Cinnamon Teals are such pretty little ducks.  They're not exactly rare, but I always get excited when I get an opportunity to get a good picture of one.  I saw fifteen or so yesterday at the San Luis and Merced National Wildlife Refuges.  A few were close to the road where I was able to snap a handful of nice shots.

Love these little guys.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fruitvale Bridge

Fruitvale Bridge, Alameda, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, 1/20s, f/4, ISO: 100
I don't generally seek out sunset photos, although there have been exceptions.  I'm not against grabbing some if they fall into my lap, though.  Last night's sunset was spectacular in the Bay Area.  I watched it as I was driving home from Big Basin.  As I got close to home I saw I could get the Fruitvale Bridge in front of the final remnants of the show, so I stopped for a few quick photos.  I like the darker ones where the bridge becomes a silhouette against the colorful sky.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Big Basin Redwoods

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, 1/8s, f/4, ISO: 800
I spent the afternoon at Big Basin today.  It was very crowded.  It's a big place, though, so although finding a parking spot took a while, once I was on a non-paved trail it wasn't too bad.  I never went more than a couple of minutes without seeing somebody, though.

It's a tough venue for taking pictures.  The redwoods lack the majesty of those in Humboldt County and Redwoods National Park up North nor do they share the intimacy of those in Muir Woods.  Still, while it might not be an amazing setting for taking pictures it works well for hiking and picnicking.  I was thinking about camping out here tonight but I wasn't quite feeling it so headed home instead.  I'll take Pongo out for a drive tomorrow, he'll like that.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Somewhere in Utah

A View from State Route 12, UT
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 1/1250s, f/4, ISO: 100
I'm not quite sure where this picture was taken other than it was somewhere kind of around the middle of Route 12 in Utah.  That drive seemed to have an endless supply of interesting things to see.  I'm sadly ignorant about everything in this photo other than having that vague notion of where it was taken and when (September 17, 2013).

Friday, February 13, 2015

Salt Creek

Salt Creek Interpretive Trail, Death Valley National Park, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, 1/125s, f/10, ISO: 100
Looking at this photo, it's more of an establishing shot than anything else.  I mean, if this blog was a movie or something.  What would the story be, though?


It would probably have something to do with the salt creek pupfish.  They're pretty fascinating.  The salt creek pupfish are only found in this creek (although there are other species of pupfish that live in other nearby water sources) and can only be seen in the Spring when the creek is high.  Keep in mind this is Death Valley, so when we say the creek is running high what that means is it isn't completely dry.  The source of the creek's water is an underground spring, which is where the pupfish spend the bulk of their lives, as well as the year round pools that can be found upstream of the boardwalk (there's a trail you can follow and it's park ranger-approved).  As you might have guessed, the creek is salty.  The pupfish are adapted to the high salinity.  Stating the obvious, I guess.

Salt Creek Pupfish -- Salt Creek, Death Valley National Park, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/1600s, f/5.6, ISO: 320
Inspired by Geogypsy's Foto Friday Fun 98, photo #6545.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Jackson Lake

Jackson Lake, Grand Teton National Park, WY
Canon PowerShot SD770 IS, 1/400s, f/2.8, ISO: 80
This is Jackson Lake at dawn in the middle of summer in 2012.  We stayed for three nights at the park.  I woke up early on this particular morning and walked along the shore of the lake from the campground to Signal Mountain Lodge.  This place is gorgeous, but it lives in the shadow of adjacent Yellowstone.  There are many reasons why Yellowstone is the place people come to visit, but it has no answer for the Teton Range.  These mountains aren't large like the Sierras but look as rugged as anything I've seen in North America and don't take a back seat to any of the West's great mountains in terms of beauty.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

More Muir Trees

Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, 1/2s, f/4, ISO: 100
I took a few dozen pictures on Sunday that I really like.  There is nothing particularly interesting about any of them.  There's just trunks and leaves and dirt and ferns and sometimes a creek, but I'm drawn to them.  Who knows, in a month or two I may find them dull or even embarrassing in their amateurish nature, but right now these seemingly humdrum photos enchant me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

There Is Unrest in the Forest

Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, 1/4s, f/4, ISO: 100
I don't know how these other types of trees are able to thrive underneath the redwoods.  The redwoods seem to gather up most of the light, yet the forest is rich with smaller trees.  The smallish ones (smaller than redwoods, anyway) growing along the banks of the creek makes some sense to me, after all the creek forces a little bit of space between the larger trees.  Others tucked in among the redwoods, though, I don't know how they do so well.  Tough little buggers.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, 4/5s, f/4, ISO: 100
I love Muir Woods in the rain.  There are many more interesting places to go in California when the weather is nice, but when it's wet few places can compete with Muir Woods.

Gray skies mean soft, dark light inside the redwood forest.  This is a challenging place to take pictures, but when it's overcast a DSLR and a tripod can work wonders.  The tripod is the key because to get the most out of this light the camera is going to have to be set for some long exposure times.

Listen to me, talking like I know what I'm doing.  Pfft.

Muir Woods had been something of a nemesis for me until recently when I decided it was time to master more than the basic settings of my camera.  For this trip, my camera was locked at an ISO of 100 and the f-stop was maxed out at 4.0 on all of my shots.  I managed the exposure solely with the shutter speed.  The fastest shutter I used all day was 1/10 of a second, and a few pictures were taken with up to four seconds of exposure.  I ended up with some wonderfully colorful shots.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Brewing Up a Storm

Oakland/Alameda Estuary, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, 1/250s, f/9, ISO: 100
I took this photo yesterday from the dog park next to the ferry terminal in Alameda.  We finally have some rain after over a month without a drop during what should be the wettest time of year.  It's a pineapple express storm, meaning it's one that's blowing in from the direction of Hawaii.  It was unbelievably warm last night, which fits the profile of this type of storm.  Hopefully we get a few more and can build up a snow pack in the Sierras.

I like the way the dark clouds seem to trace the outline of the bridge and cranes.  It's pure luck for me to have captured that.  I was shooting because the sun had found a crack in the clouds and was lighting the ships up nicely.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

California Ridgway's Rail

Ridgway's Rail -- Arrowhead Marsh, Oakland, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/2000s, f/5.6, ISO: 800
Either somebody did a very effective job of banding the ridgway's rails at Arrowhead Marsh or I'm seeing the same bird over and over again.  It's not surprising they'd all be banded.  They're an endangered species, after all.  California ridgway's rails (one of three subspecies, all endangered) are found only along shorelines of the San Francisco Bay.

It might take a little bit of patience, but the rails are spotted with regularity at Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland.  Part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, which was established to reintroduce the wetlands in which these birds thrive, the marsh is a great place to see birds doing what birds do.  It makes sense that there would be somebody keeping an eye on how the rails are getting along there.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Mighty Sequoia

Sequoia -- Mariposa Grove. Yosemite National Park, CA
Canon PowerShot SD 770 IS, 1/320s, f2.8, ISO:80
This is one of my first attempts at capturing one of the giant sequoia trees of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  I was just discovering how difficult that task can be.  Capturing the full tree or at least most of it is hard because you've got to shoot from far away.  Getting in close generally leaves you with either shooting straight up or shooting just the base of the tree.  Both of these types of shots can be interesting and each has its drawbacks.  One of the things that's nice about the forests where you'll find the sequoias is that they're somewhat sparse, which often allows for a spot where most of the tree can be captured in a photo.  Coastal redwoods are generally in more dense forests, so photographing the entire tree often isn't even an option.

I think this was an OK early attempt.  I could do without the tree in the immediate foreground.  I wasn't paying much attention to that kind of thing back then.  It seems a bit overexposed, but I didn't have any control of that with my little pocket camera, especially with a shot like this where I couldn't tease it into a different exposure setting by angling the camera up or down.

Inspired by Geogypsy's Foto Friday Fun 97, photo #2799,

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fly by Night

Great Horned Owl -- Merced National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/2000s, f/5.6, ISO: 400
Another picture of the owls from last weekend, this time both of them.  This picture gives something of an indication of how much stuff I had to shoot through to get to the owls.  So many branches.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Rainbow Canyon

Rainbow Canyon, Death Valley National Park, CA
Canon PowerShot SD770 IS, 1/125s, f/8, ISO: 80
I doubt that there are many rainbows in Death Valley.  There is, however, Rainbow Canyon, which gets its name from the color of its walls rather than a preponderance for actual rainbows.

If you're approaching Death Valley from the West, Rainbow Canyon is the first dramatic feature of the park that you will encounter.  It's an impressive start, but it's merely the appetizer.  Death Valley is chock full of wonder.  If I had to pick a single park as my favorite, I wouldn't hesitate to choose Death Valley.  Luckily I don't have to make that choice.  Every park I've visited is special in some way.

I took this with my little SD770.  I can't wait to get back there with my Rebel and wide angle USM lens.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Cranes & Trees

Merced National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/2000s, f/5.6, ISO: 640
Sandhill cranes tend to keep their distance from cars and people.  I wasn't able to get close enough to the cranes for decent photos with my paltry 250mm lens.  I was able to get a few fuzzy-ish shots of the birds that flew over the car, but this is probably the best photo I got of the cranes from Saturday.  I kind of like this picture.

I might as well include one of those flight shots.  I think I did OK considering I had to use manual focus.

Sandhill Crane -- Merced National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/1600s, f/5.6, ISO: 320

Monday, February 2, 2015

'atsa lotta birds!

Merced National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i. EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/800s, f/5.0, ISO:100
Hundreds, probably thousands, of snow geese in flight like this can make a hell of a racket.  It's something incredible to witness in person.While they were doing their thing on the left side of the car on Saturday sandhill cranes were whooping up a storm of their own on the right side of the car.  Pongo lost interest in both sets of birds when he saw the little cottontail rabbit about ten feet away from his side of the car.

Some moments are absolute magic.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl -- Merced National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Canon EOS Rebel T5i, EF-S 55-250mm IS II, 1/2000s, f/5.6, ISO: 400
This owl looks like a real bad ass, doesn't it?

Pongo and I went to the Merced National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday.  We went for a walk around the Bittern Trail, which is a short little loop around what I imagine is more of a marsh during normal years.  I think my jaw dropped a little when I saw not one but two large silhouettes in a tree.  I'd read that this trail sometimes has owls on it, but I read that about a lot of places and it has never panned out for me.  Luckily the trail wound around to the other side of the tree where I had  good light for pictures and the birds were content to just watch as I struggled to find a clearing through the dense, leafless branches.  A truly clear vantage point wasn't possible without a pair of wings of my own, but I found a spot that wasn't too bad.

I dunno, pretty cool bird if you ask me.